a later DK antbird painting, but you get the idea. Shazzam!
I first became aware of Debby Kaspari (then Debby Cotter) when a bitchin' antbird illustration, lush with color and strong of drawing, showed up in an issue of Bird Watcher's Digest, the magazine my husband edits, and the whole family publishes. I remember, in fact, where I was standing when I opened the issue and saw the double-page spread--in the old production room where there were little waxed lines of type stuck to everything. It was that long ago. Probably 1992, because we weren't married yet. And my head snapped back, because nothing computed. How could I have missed her? Who WAS this woman who could paint antbirds so beautifully, and why didn't I know her name and her work before Bill did? I whirled around and accosted my editor husband-to-be. "Who did this? Who is she? How did you find her?"
He started talking, and I gathered little scraps out of the cascade of words. I remember hearing "painter" and "sculptor" and "bluegrass banjo player" and "she's in a band" and then my eyes rolled back in my head and lemons came up where my eyeballs should be like a cartoon slot machine and I remember thinking, "Oh, great. He's going to fall in love with this fabulous California mystery girl who paints antbirds, just like he fell in love with me when I started painting for BWD and then what??"
Well, that didn't happen, probably because I'd met him in person first, and I gradually got used to the idea that there was this painter/draftsman/sculptor/musician out there and then she sent Bill a CD, "Heart's Desire" of her San Francisco bluegrass band, The All Girl Boys,
and the picture of the beautiful brunette in the middle "all dipped in girl dip," as she put it, set me back another couple months...but I eventually got over it. And despite my Leonine fragility we became friends, fast friends and she came out to visit us in Ohio and we threw a summer music party in her honor and Debby played bitchin' banjo breaks on tunes like "Don't Fear the Reaper." This is a song which, having always made her own music instead of blowing out her ears to rock like the rest of us, she had never heard. Bill and I still marvel at that. And I loved her, as I knew I would.
As the Internet slowly loomed up and infiltrated our lives I could keep up with Debby's doings on her web site. I got to see her every now and then, twice, in fact, at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's "Birds in Art" show. Here we are, having our pictures taken in Wisconsin with dear friend, pastel artist Cindy House.
She's painted a bunch of covers for Bird Watcher's Digest--a mockingbird in moonlight; a rufous hummingbird staring a long-eared owl in the face; a painted bunting on cannas; three rubythroats in bougainvillea... We invited her out for an Artist's Gathering at our place and she was enfolded into the loving and supportive arms of our bird-painting artist friends. The emails fly thick and fast, with jpegs, and we pass critiques and praise back and forth through the electrons. We are connected, and we share each other's victories and sorrows alike. Debby's drawings and paintings always take my breath away. I would love to be able to draw like that.
So here's a little gallery, because I know it's hard to draw yourself away to another web site. I've dragged these off debbykaspariart.com. Go there for more.
Macaws over a giant ceiba tree. Pastel and graphite.
Orange-chinned parakeets, demolishing mangoes. Pastel and graphite.
Petersham, Massachusetts. Watercolor, plein air (done on the spot).
Did I mention Debby also teaches plein air drawing?Well, she does. Just another thing she does I'd be scared stiff to try.
Get a load of her line.
Wild turkeys, from life.
Furnariids, antbirds, honeycreepers, swallow tanagers...she's drawing so fast and furiously that she draws one bird over another. From life, Peru.
Coati studies. Deb's mammals just blow me away. Has she got the beady-eyed squint down or what?
Buttress roots, drawn on site. Just another of the things that scares me about Deb. She can sit for two days in one spot and produce something like this. We have to be careful when we're hiking because she might plop herself down and pull out her sketchbook and get all lost in tree roots or bark and then we'd have to bring her water and sandwiches until she'd recorded every last beautiful convolution.
Like the bark of this cottonwood in Oklahoma last month. She kind of murmured when she saw it and started walking toward it.
And before Tim and I knew it she was hugging that tree and I grabbed my camera because candid photos of actual tree huggers are rare.